For Tom Petty, the simplicity of rock and roll was its very sanctity. It was the most effective way for this golden haired, snaggle toothed kid from Gainesville to evoke the purest feelings in life: the giddiness of being in love, the pedal-down buzz of speeding down the highway, the wetness of Louisiana rain through the shoes. He wrote his lyrics to be heard not read. He composed his chords to be felt rather than savored. He had a purity of spirit and down-home honesty that made you feel like he was just a handshake away from becoming your best friend.
Not surprisingly, Petty’s songs opened a lot of hearts, across generations and even continents. To date, he has sold more than 80 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling pop musicians of all time. That is why, so many of us felt a sucker punch to the heart when he died.
Warren Zane, one of Petty’s biographers, wrote: “On the music side, the results were pretty straightforward: in a culture of argument and friendships lost because you couldn’t see eye to eye on what acts meant the most, Petty was the guy most everybody agreed on.”
At a time when the political environment has become so toxic, there is something almost reverential about celebrating the things that we do share. That makes Tom Petty’s music – and its ability to bring so many diverse people together – feel even more timely and essential than ever.
Over one evening of music selected from virtually every corner of Petty’s songbook, you will see and hear the deep talent and diversity of Washington-based musicians whose lives were touched by this quintessentially American musician. They include David Kitchen, Cal Everett, Todd Wright, Sean Chyun, Hayley Fahey, Heather Aubrey Lloyd, Jonathan Sloane, Holly Montgomery, Tommy Gann, Dan Hovey, Jack O’Dell, Cathy Valdiviez Baumbusch, Desson Thomson, Jon Combs, Ariel Francis, El Torro Gamble, Mark Williams, Ian Burke and Wes Lanich.
Their message will be simple: Tom Petty’s music mattered then, it matters now, and it will help carry us forward into the great wide open of the American future.